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Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Page: 1212

Arbib, Senator Mark


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:00): My question is to the Assistant Treasurer, Minister for Small Business and Minister for Sport, Senator Arbib. On what date did he first inform the Prime Minister that he would be resigning?


Senator ARBIB (New South WalesAssistant Treasurer, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Sport and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:00): I am happy to answer that question: 22 February.


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:00): I should congratulate the minister on his second last day in the Senate for giving the only directly relevant answer I have heard from the government. Mr President, I ask a supplementary question.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I need to hear Senator Brandis.

Senator BRANDIS: I could not get the question out because of all the jollity. Could you ask for the clock to be reset, please?

The PRESIDENT: Yes, that is reasonable in the circumstances. Senator Brandis, continue.

Senator BRANDIS: Thank you very much. I refer to Mr Bob Carr's statement early this afternoon confirming that the Prime Minister offered him the minister's Senate seat and the foreign affairs portfolio and the Prime Minister's statement earlier this morning that the report to that effect in this morning's Australian newspaper was 'completely untrue'. Who is telling the truth, the Prime Minister or Mr Bob Carr?






Senator ARBIB (New South WalesAssistant Treasurer, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Sport and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:02): I am happy to answer the question. The question does lie well outside my portfolio duties; but, given that I have only two question times left, I am very happy to answer the question for you, Senator, and I will be as direct as possible. I have not actually read the Australian article so it is very difficult for me to deal with the detail in the article itself. I had no conversations, prior to my announcement and prior to talking to the Prime Minister, with former Premier Bob Carr whatsoever, and I was very surprised when it was raised in the media. The speculation that somehow there had been a deal or some sort of set-up is totally incorrect. When I spoke to the Prime Minister about my decision she was totally unaware, and that was following the leadership ballot. So I think the speculation in some of the newspapers and some of the online commentary is incorrect. (Time expired)


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:03): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given the faceless men humiliated the Prime Minister yesterday after they vetoed her planned appointment of Mr Carr, doesn't this confirm what we already know, that the Prime Minister still cannot control her government; she still cannot control her ministry? And notwithstanding the minister's gesture of healing, even his departure will mean that faceless men like him will still be in control?

The PRESIDENT: The minister can only answer those parts of that question that the minister is in control of.



Senator ARBIB (New South WalesAssistant Treasurer, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Sport and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:04): It is a very difficult question to answer in terms of my portfolio, but can I say that it is a bit rich coming from Senator Brandis. In terms of leadership and faceless men, I have to say that I remember when Malcolm Turnbull's leadership came under threat and I can point to all the senators across the other side of the room who did everything they could to filibuster in this place over the CPRS to ensure that Malcolm Turnbull's leadership fell.

Senator Brandis: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Talking about what may or may not have happened in the opposition 3½ years ago is not directly relevant to the issue of whether faceless men will continue to control the Gillard government.

Senator Chris Evans: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. As I explained to Senator Brandis yesterday, he seeks to ask questions that, quite frankly, are completely irrelevant to the minister's portfolio. The minister at least tries to provide some response, and he then seeks to take a point of order. The question was out of order. We did not object on the basis that Senator Arbib was quite happy to give as good as he got; but, quite frankly, when the question is out of order, is not related to his portfolio and is so wide ranging, it is pretty hard to see how the minister can respond in any other way than be wide ranging in response.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I have asked the minister to respond to that part of the question which might pertain to his portfolio. The minister has 32 seconds remaining.

Senator ARBIB: Yes, there was the loyalty shown to Malcolm Turnbull by some of the faceless men and women in the Liberal Party on the Senate benches over there. Senator Bernardi is not here—and Senator Bernardi is a good friend of mine—but if anyone is a faceless man in this parliament, Cory Bernardi takes the cake.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Arbib, withdraw that.

Senator ARBIB: Mr President, I am happy to withdraw that about Senator Bernardi. He is a good man. Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition, today—

The PRESIDENT: Mister.

Senator ARBIB: Mr Abbott got some payback from his own people over paid paternity leave. (Time expired)